An Online Marketing Strategy To Leverage Your Local Chamber Of Commerce Membership
In the upcoming weeks I will post more about how any small business or medium-sized business owner or executive can boost his or her online presence through the business’ chamber of commerce membership. Obviously, most of the benefits from any chamber membership comes from the “real world” participation: weekly or monthly breakfasts, attending ribbon cuttings, going to quarterly or annual luncheons, and any opportunities to meet new people coming into the area through chamber events. The ability to gain online marketing benefit, however, is not often as obvious. In a moment you will learn one of the many strategies you can employ to get more online exposure through your chamber of commerce membership.
This blog entry helps three parties to benefit:
- The prospective customer or client benefits because he or she is able to find products or services in the local market which have the possibility of meeting some sort of minimum standards
- The business owner or executive wins because he or she feels that the membership paid to the local chamber of commerce is providing extra benefit above and beyond what was promised initially; and the business has the potential to grow through acquiring new customers or clients who never heard of the business previously nor were referred in any manner
- The local chamber of commerce wins because its website gets more exposure and, therefore, can help the chamber gain more credibility and (passively) the possibility of attracting new members
First, you will want to know why your receiving calls about “SEO” services are so prevalent. The underlying assumption is that by ranking at the top of search engines for a phrase which have some degree of consistent demand (number of searches each month) you will receive a good degree of pre-qualified prospects to a web PROPERTY. Please note that this does not necessarily mean that the property must be your website. It could be an online video on your YouTube channel, a press release, a local newspaper article about your business or a page on your website other than your home page. Also note that ranking first does NOT mean an automatic number of new customers or clients. This is because many elements have to be in place for someone to call or e-mail you out of the blue. Such elements include price, guarantees, reviews, your promises, ease of finding contact information and several other factors.
Next, you have to know that the search engines want to give its users the very best possible results. This is because each major search engine is part of of, or entirely, a publicly-traded company… and they need to meet analysts’ quarterly earnings expectations! Therefore they want you to use that one site for ALL of your “who, what, when, where, why, how” questions. This is because they know that out of every 100 queries made through their engine a certain number of people will click one of the paid ads where the search engine earns revenue from the advertisers. Therefore, the more queries made through that particular engine equals more revenue for the parent company! It is a “market share” game for the search engines, and therefore each engine always seeks out the best ways to return quality results so that you stay loyal to it and not “defect” to another search engine.
Remember that in any local market, the chamber of commerce’s website tends to be “authoritative” to these search engines. One of the reasons why is that you cannot “spam” the chamber website very easily, if at all. If a web property which you control appears on the chamber website then it likely had to go through some sort of human approval process (assuming a degree of human control) before it can be read by the search engine robots/spiders. This type of control process lends itself to making each link on the chamber website more “trustworthy” than most other links in your local market, and you can begin to use this your advantage.
Finally, let’s cover a trend at the time of this blog post in the world of search engines. Many people now have easy access to “spammy” links in large volume. What you want is to never have anything deemed spammy touching your website. Ideally, the only links you want actually pointing to your website are located on web properties which the search engines respect. These could include helpful videos on video-sharing sites, links to your site on press releases, local newspaper websites pointing to your home page, local directory websites, endorsements from happy customers on their social media properties, and similar types of links. One of these types of quality links is a link from the local chamber of commerce’s website to your website.
Remember earlier that you read about ranking web PROPERTIES, not just your website’s home page. Here is where your chamber of commerce membership begins to pay off in terms of helping you in the search engines. Let’s take a look at an example for this website on the McKinneyChamber.com website, although it applies to anyone who has a membership in most chambers of commerce around the U.S.:
Note the website link (URL) which is http://www.mckinneychamber.com/Internet-Marketing-Services/MORETHANSEOCOM
Now take a look at the query in Google for “online marketing services McKinney TX”
You can see that the sub-folder (directory) for “internet marketing services” on the McKinneyChamber.com website is ranking # 2 for this query. The first three listings are paid ads, and the Chamber’s website is the second in the “organic” results. Odds are that the Chamber has not spent a lot of time or money (if any!) promoting this specific sub-folder (directory), yet it still ranks near the top of the results. This is just one of many examples of where a chamber of commerce’s website has authority in the search engines.
Even though my website’s listing is not directly showing in the results, the directory listing category page on the chamber website where my listing appears is ranking well. This is fine to me as it gives authority to this website as well as anyone’s business who meets the Chamber’s minimum standards for appearing on that page.
In order for your business to gain more exposure, you can further boost your chamber page listing in the search engines with quality links. For example, if you write a press release and are permitted to use up to three links then consider a strategy like this:
- a link to your website’s home page (or another page on your site which best serves the interests of the press release’s readers)
- one of your social media properties (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.)
- the specific listing for your business on the chamber website
Please refrain from buying “spammy” links and sending them to your local chamber’s website as that will not benefit you in the long run (and maybe not even in the near term either!); and buying those links won’t help your fellow chamber members either as there likely will be no search engine reward for doing so. Instead, whenever you have an opportunity to promote your page on the chamber website then do so. Roughly 5-10% of your link building efforts can go to your business’ chamber website listing. You can dedicate the other 90-95% to building quality links to your home page, “inner pages” on your website, articles, local directory listings, social media properties, videos and other helpful content you have produced for prospective customers and clients to find you.
I hope that this strategy begins to help you change how you look at your membership in any chamber of commerce around the country. There are many more ways to leverage your membership in order to gain new customers or clients online. If you cannot wait until the next blog post to discover these methods then you are welcome to contact me for more information; and we can discuss your strengths to increase the chances that your chamber membership will produce more customers through strategic online marketing.